Pope reasserts ban on women priests

Pope reasserts ban on women priests

Pope reasserts ban on women priests

Updated 11 April 2012, 10:18 AEST

Pope Benedict has reaffirmed the Roman Catholic Church's ban on women priests during a sermon at Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome.

The Pope warned he would not tolerate priests challenging the Church on topics such as priestly celibacy and the ordination of women.

Pope Benedict, who for decades before his 2005 election was the Vatican's chief doctrinal enforcer, delivered an unusually direct denunciation of disobedient priests in a sermon at a morning mass on Holy Thursday, when the Church commemorates the day they believe Christ instituted the priesthood.

The Pope responded specifically to a call to disobedience by a group of Austrian priests and laity, who last year boldly and openly challenged Church teaching on taboo topics such as priestly celibacy and women's ordination.

"Is disobedience a path of renewal for the Church?" he asked rhetorically.

In his response to the Austrian group, his first in public, Pope Benedict noted that, in its "call to disobedience", it had challenged "definitive decisions of the Church's magisterium (teaching authority) such as the question of women's ordination".

He then restated the position by citing a major 1994 document by his predecessor John Paul II that stated the ban on women priests was part of the Church's "divine constitution".

A year later in 1995, the Vatican's doctrinal department, which the Pope headed when he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, ruled that the teaching on an exclusively male priesthood had been "set forth infallibly", meaning it could not be changed.

The Catholic Church teaches that it has no authority to allow women to become priests because Jesus Christ willingly chose only men as his apostles when he instituted the priesthood at the Last Supper.

Proponents of a female priesthood say Jesus Christ was only acting according to the customs of his times.

Dangerous disobedience

In Pope Benedict's sermon during the morning Mass, his first event in the three days leading to Easter, he said that while discussion could be healthy for the Church, disobedience was dangerous.

He acknowledged there could be concern about the slow pace of change in the Church, but "drastic measures" were not the way to achieve authentic, divinely willed renewal.

"But is disobedience really a way to do this? Do we sense here anything of that configuration to Christ which is the precondition for true renewal, or do we merely sense a desperate push to do something to change the Church in accordance with one's own preferences and ideas?" he said.

Later on Thursday, the Pope washed and dried the feet of 12 priests in a ceremony commemorating Christ's gesture of humility toward his apostles on the night before he died.

On Good Friday, he will hold two services marking Christ's crucifixion, including a Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) procession around the ruins of Rome's Colosseum.

He says an Easter Eve mass on Saturday night and on Sunday will deliver an "Urbi et Orbi" (to the city and the world) blessing and message.

Australian Easter message

An Anglican Archbishop in Australia has hit out at banks and the mining sector saying big corporations need a reality check.

In a Good Friday opinion piece in News Limited papers, the Anglican Archbishop of Melbourne, Doctor Philip Freier says the mining sector has been reluctant to share a fair portion of the wealth accrued from digging up mineral resources that belong to all Australians.

He adds that banks have failed to make a case for lifting rates and making redundancies while recording enormous profits.

Dr Freier says Australia has a level of peace and prosperity that is the envy of many countries.

Easter is about faith

Other leaders of the Catholic and Anglican churches in Australia say Easter is about having faith in eternal life.

Sydney's Catholic leader, Cardinal George Pell has used his Easter message to call for a return to old-fashioned morals.

"The social capital of too many Australian communities is being run down," he said.

He says people need to reflect on why Jesus Christ died and what it means for them.

The Anglican archbishop of Sydney, Dr Peter Jensen, says the story of Easter brings hope for everyone.

"He broke out of the tomb and showed that death is not the last word in life," he said.

Dr Jensen says as a result of Jesus' resurrection, there's no need for people to feel afraid of death.